Report telemarketers and annoying callers. Trace any phone number.

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Report telemarketers and annoying callers. Trace any phone number.

  1. 1. CELL PHONE SAVVY: A GUIDE TO GETTING THE MOST OUT OF YOUR CURRENT AND FUTURE CELL PHONES AND AVOIDING BEING OVERCHARGED IN NYC NEIGHBORHOODS A REPORT BY PUBLIC ADVOCATE BETSY GOTBAUM Revised AUGUST 2005 Visit us on the web at www.pubadvocate.nyc.gov or call us at 212-669-7200.
  2. 2. Office of the New York City Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum Public Advocate for the City of New York PREPARED BY: Jill E. Sheppard Director of Policy and Research Jesse Mintz-Roth Policy Research Associate WITH THE ASSISTANCE OF: Dianna Payne Ombudsman Peter Hitt Deborah Oriscak Laura Smith Anna Stallman Interns
  3. 3. Contents Hear Me Now: Reception and Service Areas Infrastructure Updates in the New York Area Advice for Commuters and Travelers: Trains and Subways Wired for Cell Phones How to Determine Reception Quality Before You Buy Optimizing your Contract What’s the Best Way to Sign Up for a Contract? How Long Do I Have to Keep My Contract? When Is the Best Time to Negotiate for Deals? Picking a Contract Type Jet Setters: Options for New Yorkers Who Travel Uncomplicate Your Life: How to Simplify Billing for Your Household Service Plans Picking a Contract Term How Long Do Phones Last? Should I Buy Phone Replacement Insurance? What if I Lose My Phone or Want to End My Contract Before It’s Up? Activating Service • When’s the Best Time to Get a Good Deal on a New Phone? • Should I Take Any Precautions About Renewing My Contract with My Existing Provider? • Why Should I Be Careful When Changing My Minutes and Features? Picking a Phone • What to Know If You Use Your Phone Frequently Outside New York City • For Users of Older AT&T Wireless Phones Picking a Carrier • Can I Bring My Number to a New Carrier? Text, E-Mail and Multimedia Text Messaging Keeps You Informed BlackBerry and Smart Phones What’s Next: Broadband Everywhere Where to Shop Getting Rid of Your Old Phone Filing Complaints Other Resources and Guides to Cell Phones
  4. 4. Want to avoid losing a call when you drive through a tunnel on the way to work? Want to change your home phone number to a cell phone number? Curious about how to get the best deals on a new phone in New York City? Would like to know where to shop to avoid lines, fees, and bad advice? This guide from the Office of Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum will help you learn which questions to ask before you commit to a plan or adjust your service. Check out the tips below to find out how to get the most out of your cell phone service plan now and in the future. 1 Most residents of the five boroughs use cell phones and many are giving up land lines completely. New Yorkers make up a high percentage of the 3.8% of American households, or about 4.1 million people, who have given up their landline in favor of a cell phone.2 This trend is on the rise. Some callers find cell phones are cheaper than landlines. Most national plans come standard with free long distance, let you talk for free in other major metropolitan areas, and give you free calling during off-peak hours. Cell phones fit a life spent on the move and away from home. Area codes 917, 646, and 347, primarily area codes for cell phone numbers, have become almost as identified with New York City as 212 and 718. And now you can take your number with you from one cell provider to the next or from a landline to a cell phone. Hear Me Now: Reception and Service Areas Having good reception in the places you will use your phone is the most important criterion you should consider when choosing or switching providers. Although New York City, and especially Manhattan, has more cell phone towers than other large cities in the country, there are many variables that determine the quality of your reception. Reception may be stronger in particular corners of your apartment, or your phone may not work in your home at all. You don’t have to put up with it: find out which carriers have good reception in your area or give a phone a test drive. Infrastructure Updates in the New York Area: Wireless service providers each have their own infrastructures around the city, and reception quality changes. For example, Cingular’s coverage and service in the New York City market recently improved when it merged with AT&T Wireless.3 Verizon Wireless has spent nearly $1 billion improving its service in the New York area since 1 This guide is based on information current as of 01/25/05. The best way to stay up to date with new technology and constantly changing service plans is to do research and to ask the right questions. Please also see the disclaimer at the end of this guide. 2 Cell Phone Displace Landlines in Record Numbers. Mediamark Research Press Release 09/24/04; Cell Phone Taxes Jar New Yorkers, New York Sun 10/11/2004. 3 Cell Phone Reception—New York, NY. http://www.cellreception.com/city/newyork/page2.html. Accessed 1/31/05. -1-
  5. 5. 2001 and through a contract with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) controls the wireless infrastructure in the Queens Midtown and Brooklyn Battery Tunnels. Wireless service is more consistent on all carriers in the Lincoln and Holland Tunnels since each wireless carrier has its own contract with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Advice for Commuters and Travelers: Trains and Subways Wired for Cell Phones Verizon also serves the Amtrak/NJ Transit rail tunnel connecting Penn Station to New Jersey, as well as the Washington DC Metro, and will soon serve the San Francisco Bay Area’s BART system. The MTA looked into wiring the City’s subways in 2001, but abandoned the idea in September 2004 due to high costs.4 How to Determine Reception Quality Before You Buy: • Ask Around: Ask colleagues in your office and neighbors in your building to find out which providers they use, how well their phones work, and where they don’t work at all. • Search on the Web: Use search terms like “cell reception,” your neighborhood name, the wireless carrier, and “New York City” to find many of the sites and forums dedicated to information on reception quality. A sample of useful websites include: • Cellreception.com. Search by city or zip code down to the intersection. • Cellphoneforums.net. Search this online forum for information on phones, reception, and plans. • Cellguru.net. Focuses on New York and other states in New England, rating reception in cities across each state from each of the major cell phone providers including roaming information. • HowardForums.com. Prolific forums about all cell phone issues and questions you may have. • T-Mobile.com. T-Mobile has reception maps in the “coverage” area of its website that predict reception Is it free to port my number to quality around your another carrier when my neighborhood. • Got Commitment Issues? Take a contract is over? Yes! All cell phone subscribers Phone on a Test Drive: Each of the pay a federal tax every month to national carriers discussed in this make this possible. There is no guide will let you try a phone for at charge to bring your number with least 14 days before you commit to 5 you to a new carrier when your your contract. Cingular gives you 30 contract ends. days. Just ask! 4 Airbus: Mobile Phones Set to Soar. New York Post 09/16/2004. 5 Press Release 303-03, 10/27/03: Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, DoITT Commissioner Gino Menchini, and Consumer Affairs Commissioner Gretchen Dykstra Announce Program to Track Cell Phone “Dead Spots” Citywide. Check your carrier’s plan for details; there may be some non-refundable costs such as the activation fee, minutes used, or a re-stocking fee. -2-
  6. 6. Optimizing your Contract It’s a big deal that you can now take your number from your old wireless provider or a landline and bring it to a new wireless provider. Over 8.5 million people did it in the first year it was possible.6 If you don’t like your plan, or your service, you too can try another provider. Now wireless service providers are pricing service plans more competitively. Since wireless consumers can now change carriers, providers not only have to initially attract consumers but also keep them on board after their contract expires with ongoing incentives. What’s the Best Way to Sign Up for a Contract? Signing or renewing a cell phone contract can be done as quickly and easily as shopping online for anything else. However, taking more time to window shop online, at stores or in newspapers to find the right plan with the most attractive promotions or a discounted full-featured phone can also be a rewarding experience. Compare prices online and in stores for plans—sometimes discounts on voicemail and other add-ons are only available online. How Long Do I Have to Keep My Contract? You may be eligible for an Employee Your contract is the amount of time you are Discount! legally bound to stay with your wireless Wireless providers offer discounts to service provider. Most contracts last 1 or 2 employees of hundreds of companies on years from the time you begin your service. phones, plans, and accessories. Some carriers will let you sign up without a Employees of the City of New York—the contract term—either by providing the phone City’s biggest employer—for instance, yourself or by opting for a pre-paid contract— qualify for big discounts on monthly access but you won’t be eligible for as many discounts. charges. City employees can sign up to get 20% off with Sprint, 20% off with Cingular, When is the Best Time to Negotiate for Deals? 19% off with Verizon, and 10% off with Signing up for a new contract or renewing your Nextel. Inquire with your company or call contract is the best time to get new perks such your wireless provider to find out if you are as promotional minutes, a discount on a eligible for a corporate discount and sign up. sophisticated new phone, a better deal on a plan, more airtime, or other loyalty discounts (if you’re renewing). When renewing, it’s in your interest to get the most out of the new contract and compare offerings with other carriers rather than taking the first thing your existing carrier offers you—such as a small discount off your next bill. 6 LNP a year later shows 8.5 million people switched carriers. Mobile Tech News 11/24/2004. -3-
  7. 7. Picking a Contract Type Jet Setters: Options for New Yorkers Who Travel New Yorkers are frequent travelers within the tri-state area, other states, and other countries. National plans give you the flexibility to travel to other metropolitan areas in the country without worrying whether you are being charged additional fees to roam outside your service area. Check out the coverage map on the Internet or the carrier’s brochure to see if your national plan includes Canada in its coverage area. Some Cingular and T-Mobile plans will also let you roam around the world for a fee. Regional plans will save you money and give you more talking time than national plans if you never plan to use your phone outside the tri-state area. Uncomplicate Your Life: How to Simplify Billing for Your Household Family plans allow couples and families to split minutes between two or more lines as needed. Additional phone lines for your family members can be added for a small surcharge, currently around $10 each. Service Plans Most New Yorkers spend $60 or less on their monthly cell phone contract.7 Each carrier offers many types of service plans that are in this range. Visit a cell phone retailer, website, or an online cell phone retailer like cnet.com or amazon.com that carry plans from several providers to compare available plans. Other guides to cell phones listed in the Resources section below also compare plans of several providers. Service plans offerings are always changing and you should consult an authorized dealer about contract terms before picking one. Test-drive your carrier. All carriers in New York City give you a trial period of at least 14 days before you are committed to your contract term. Cingular gives you 30 days. Picking a Contract Term Best & Worst of Early Contract Cancellation Penalties 1 year $150 – Sprint (cheapest) Pros: • Shorter commitment in case your phone $175 – Verizon $200 – T-Mobile needs repairs, a new battery, or is lost. $200 – Nextel • You have more flexibility to shop for $240 – Cingular (most expensive) new plans and get discounted phones Note: Cingular prorates early contract more frequently when you sign up for termination fees based on the remaining term. new service. • You can keep your phone without a contract as long as you like after your term ends with no penalty for quitting. 7 According to amazon.com, best-selling phone contracts in New York, NY. Accessed on 1/27/05. -4-
  8. 8. Cons: • Activation fee and/or phone may be more expensive. • Not eligible for some promotions that 2-year contract subscribers receive (e.g., Verizon offers a $100 discount toward a new phone—which would extend your contract—in the 22nd month of a 2-year contract). 2 years Pros: • Activation fee and/or phone may be cheaper. • Phone may be more discounted. • Some special promotions may only be available with 2-year contracts. Cons: • You are more likely to spend money insuring, repairing, or replacing your old phone. • Less frequent opportunity to buy a new phone, be eligible for new service options, discounts, or switch carriers. Pre-Paid/No Contract (not available on all carriers) Pros: • You have no commitment to keep service. • Your credit history is unimportant. • No penalty for quitting. Cons: • Minutes are more expensive. NYC Cell Phone Laws • Not eligible for most contract-based • New York State law promotions (such as in-network calling, prohibits the use of unlimited nights and weekends, etc.—check hand-held cell with your carrier). phones while driving on all public roads, How Long Do Phones Last? except in the case of Of the 98.9 million cell phones purchased in the U.S. an emergency. Use in 2004, about 20 to 25% of phones needed some hands-free sort of repair within the first year. Cell phones equipment like a now last 19 months on average8—less than the headset instead. length of a 2-year contract. Phone batteries usually • Using your phone can hold a good charge for about one year, after during performances which a new battery can run you at least $30. And as of any kind is illegal phones have become more complex with cameras and in New York City. other features, there is a greater possibility that their internal gadgetry or moving parts (like the hinge of a flip-phone) could break. 8 When Phones Go Bad: Fancier Gadgets Mean More Acute Problems. Washington Post 10/31/2004. -5-
  9. 9. Should I Buy Phone Replacement Insurance? There are many levels of phone replacement insurance and it costs about $4-6 per month. It’s more worthwhile if your phone is very expensive. Read the fine print: most replacement plans have additional deductibles and do not cover loss or physical damage. Due to their costs and details, only about 10% of cell phone subscribers choose to purchase phone replacement insurance plans.9 What If I Lose My Phone or Want to End My Contract Before It’s Up? After the 14-day trial period when you first buy your phone, the penalties for breaking a contract begin at $150 and may be as high as $600, depending on where and when you bought your phone (see “where to shop” below). You are still committed to your contract even if you break or lose your phone. If you buy a new phone before the end of your contract, ask whether you can get a discount on the new phone for being a longtime customer. You may be able to get a consumer loyalty discount, but it will most likely extend your contract and not be as good a discount as you could get by signing up for new service. Activating Service When’s the Best Time to Get a Good Deal on a New Phone? Wireless carriers give new customers the deepest discounts in exchange for a new one- or two-year contract. These savings can make phones that retail for several hundred dollars free or nearly free with a new service contract. Compare prices online, in carrier stores, at small stores, and in advertisements in weekly newspapers like The Village Voice. You may also be able to find a rate plan that is cheaper than your current rate. Can I get a free cell phone? Should I take Any Precautions About Renewing Yes, if you sign up for a new My Contract with My Existing Provider? contract and have good credit. Free If you want to stay with your current provider phones are found in almost every store, after your contract expires, you may be able to but are slightly more common online negotiate a cheaper rate plan directly with your and in small authorized dealers. carrier. Providers sometimes offer their customers Sometimes the free phone may loyalty discounts on their plans based on their factor in an in-store or mail-in rebate. tenure with the service and whether they have Ask whether the price includes rebates multiple accounts. and if so how long it will take for them to process. Some may take a few Why should I Be Careful When Changing My months. Minutes and Features? Take the precaution of asking the customer support staff every time you change your plan whether the change you are making will affect your contract term. Extended minutes or additional features might not be available with your current plan or may qualify as additional promotions. Taking on new promotions (such as more minutes, earlier weekends, or in-network calling) may extend your contract. 9 Ibid. -6-
  10. 10. Picking a Phone Selecting a phone can be both an exciting and daunting task. Phones today have been reinvented as personal digital consoles that optionally come with cameras, screens able to display video in thousands of colors, personal organizers, the ability to send and receive multimedia messages, surf the net, listen to MP3s or the radio, play videos games, download elaborate ring tones, or connect to other electronics and your computer with a cord or wirelessly. It may be fun to entertain having all of these features on a single device in your pocket, but they are all optional as none of them affect the calling capabilities of your phone. When you pick a phone the most important criteria to consider is which carriers have the best service where you will be making calls most, and if you spend time outside the city, how your phone will work in other locations. What to Know If You Use Your Phone Frequently Outside New York City In areas where your provider’s signal is weak, your cell phone can roam on other carriers’ networks. But there may be a fee: your carrier’s coverage maps are not usually detailed enough to tell you how your reception will be in a locality, but you should still consult them (available online or in a brochure) to find out whether the area you are going is covered by your rate plan or whether you might be charged for domestic roaming. Useful for Domestic Travelers Do you spend much • Travelers to other big cities should find that all time outside the city in wireless providers have good service in big cities. rural areas or less- • Dual-Mode and Tri-Mode phones work on both populous areas? If so, the digital network found in cities and inner you are more likely to suburbs, and the analog networks still remaining in find better reception in outer suburban and rural areas. Other providers are those areas with a tri- building their coverage in outer areas but are still band phone that works less likely to have coverage as comprehensive in with digital and analog outer areas as Verizon and Sprint, even when bands from Verizon or they roam. Sprint. All national carriers today have expansive and increasing coverage areas, but Verizon and Sprints’ networks are the most extensive outside major metropolitan areas. Still, if you can, you should ask people who live or work in those areas which providers work for them before making your decision. Avoid Roaming Charges: You are roaming when Useful for International you are outside of your provider’s coverage area on Travelers your provider’s coverage map and using another World Phones available on wireless provider’s signal. Sometimes the word Cingular and T-Mobile can roam or the other provider’s name will appear on operate on GSM (Global your phone’s screen. Roaming is billed by the Standard for Mobile) minute and can be quite expensive. To avoid networks worldwide. roaming look at your coverage map to see if areas you go are covered by your provider, or call and -7-
  11. 11. ask. Roaming in foreign countries, sometimes including Canada, is even more expensive. Find out the roaming prices on your provider’s website before using your phone abroad. Do you want to use your phone internationally? Multi-band GSM world phones sold by Cingular and T-Mobile are compatible with extensive cell phone networks in Europe and Asia. Note that international roaming charges can be expensive. If you plan to use your phone frequently abroad, it might be cheaper to buy a prepaid cell phone when you get there. For Users of former AT&T Wireless Phones using TDMA/AMPS technologies Cingular supports AT&T Wireless’ older TDMA (Time Division Multiple Access) digital and analog AMPS phones. The network will be phased out in the coming years in favor of GSM. Users with older phones will still be able to use them, but new customers will not be able to activate new TDMA service. Picking a Carrier In the last few years cell phone minutes have become cheaper. Today a $40 plan can buy you up to 1000 anytime minutes. The same amount would have bought a mere fraction of that amount of time in the late 90s. Many incentives, like unlimited calling on nights and weekends, are now standard on most plans. The following is a list of promotions that the country’s national wireless providers (Cingular, Verizon, T-Mobile, Nextel) offer today with new contracts. Which providers do your friends and family use? If it was included in your contract when you signed up, you can chat with others who use your carrier for as long as you want at any time of the day for free on: • Verizon • Nextel • Cingular Or for a small monthly fee on: • T-Mobile • Sprint Want more off-peak hours? T-Mobile gives you the options to begin night calling at 7pm instead of 9pm or take a 3- day weekend of unlimited calling that also includes Fridays. Want to keep the minutes you didn’t use this month for future use? Cingular’s Rollover plans let you save unused minutes from one month to the next. Want to avoid big charges if you go over your minutes allowance? Sprint’s Fair & Flexible plans charge you $5 for every block of 100 minutes you use over your plan’s quota of anytime minutes. That means paying as little as 5¢ per minute if you go over, when other plans charge as much as 40¢ per minute. -8-
  12. 12. How are subscribers affected when wireless providers merge? Last year Cingular bought AT&T Wireless, and this year Sprint will merge with Nextel. When mergers occur, the terms of your existing contract stay the same, but you may not receive newer benefits and promotions (such as Cingular’s Rollover minutes or free in- network calling) until you sign a new contract with the provider. Can I bring my number to a new carrier? All cell phone users now pay a tax to be able to “port” their number to other providers. This means that when you switch providers, you can bring your old number with you for free. Porting your wireless number to another provider takes only a few minutes or hours, while porting a number between landline and wireless networks may take a few days. To make sure your number is portable, inquire with the wireless service provider you want to switch to. Only cancel the old account after the number has been successfully ported. If you think you’re paying a lot in taxes and fees, it’s because you are. New Yorkers pay among the highest taxes on their cell phone service in the country. The taxes on a $40 or $50 monthly plan amount to approximately an additional 20% in tax, which itself is composed roughly in thirds of City, State, and Federal taxes. Text, E-Mail and Multimedia Phones Do A Lot More Today Than Just Let You Talk. You can surf the web, customize your ring tone, write and receive text messages, or even multimedia messages with pictures if your phone has a camera. Text Messaging Keeps You Informed Text messages let you send quick messages to other cell phone users when you can’t talk because you’re in a meeting or a noisy place. Texting has also become very popular among teenagers for sending quick notes (parents beware!). Banks can remind you when to pay your bills; Airlines can tell you what gate your flight leaves from or if it has been delayed; E-mail providers can alert you when you have new email. Free services such as What’s Up New York (whatsupnyc.com) and TxtMob (txtmob.com) will even send you up-to-the-minute information about sales, parties, art-gallery openings, and other events around town. Text messages cost, like all other additional services. The cheapest way to text is to buy a package with your monthly bill for an extra few dollars. Check the rates at your carrier. Otherwise most carriers let you send them for 5 or 10¢ each, and receive them for free or up to 2¢ (Verizon). -9-
  13. 13. You can circumvent text-message-sending fees by emailing your friends’ cell phones from your computer if you know their provider.10 The address is their 10digitnumber@ mobile.mycingular.com messaging.sprintpcs.com messaging.nextel.com mmode.com (former AT&T phones) tmomail.net (T-Mobile) vtext.com (Verizon) Some carriers also let you customize your phone’s email address. Note that text messages must be less than 160 characters and not all cell phones are set up to receive them. What’s the Best Kind of Store for Cell Phone BlackBerry and Smart phones Shopping: Corporate Provider Stores or let you send and receive full-length Authorized Cell Phone Retailers? emails, as you would on a • Wireless providers’ corporate stores have computer. Smart phones such as standard prices and offerings and may be Treos are wireless personal digital the most direct way to deal with your assistants (PDAs) that combine new or existing provider. many digital applications into your • Authorized dealers frequently offer better phone that are useful for a busy deals on phones or carry a wider variety New Yorker. Services include a of phones. scheduler, a full keyboard for email and large screen for email and using the net, and sometimes cameras. Extra service capabilities come with service surcharges in addition to the cost of a normal plan. Check with your provider for the exact charges and to find out which models of smart phones will work on its network. What’s Next: Broadband Everywhere. When providers activate their third generation (“3G”) networks throughout the five boroughs, beginning with Verizon in February 2005, and other networks within the next year, you will be able to use cell phone networks to do much more. If you have a laptop you will be able to buy a PC Card from your carrier that will give you a broadband internet connection wherever Are Prices at Authorized Cell Phone Retailers the you are in the City that Same? operates at 5 times the speed • No. There is great variance in phone prices, of a computer modem. phone selection, rebates, and additional Future phones will be able to cancellation fees. show TV and video • To compensate for lower phone prices, many programming. Current data dealers will have you sign a contract with the networks, such as Cingular’s store that binds you to additional cancellation EDGE network, are already fees (added on to the amount you pay the deployed nationally and run wireless provider) should you cancel service around twice as fast as a early. computer modem. 10 See the complete international list of provider email access addresses: http://www.notepage.net/smtp.htm - 10 -
  14. 14. Where to Shop There seem to be more places to buy a cell phone than there are to get a coffee. In 2003, cell phone retailers were among the three most common types of new businesses opening in Manhattan.11 Small cell phone stores generally advertise in free weeklies like the Village Voice, while wireless service providers advertise in large daily newspapers like the New York Post and the New York Times. Small Authorized Cell Phone Stores For: New Contract Sign-Up Pros: Big discounts on expensive phones; easier to get a 1 year contract; store staff is knowledgeable and sells plans from multiple carriers; small stores are among the first to carry the newest phones when they come out. Cons: Early contract termination penalties are highest (up to $600); low advertised phone prices take rebates into account so initial purchase price may be high; prices for the same phone may vary across neighborhoods or across the street; phones may not be covered by warranties. We sent researchers out to authorized dealers in 10 New York City neighborhoods to compare cancellation penalties and find out which providers the stores recommended (Appendix A). • If you don’t know which wireless carrier you want before you shop, you will most likely be sold a T-Mobile or Cingular plan if you shop at a NYC authorized dealer. T-Mobile was recommended to our researchers most frequently (67% of the time), and Cingular was recommended 29% of the time. • We found that not all stores make you sign a contract that binds you to pay additional cancellation fees to the store if you cancel early, but 28 out of the 55 we visited do. Additional penalties run from $50 to $400 and last from 4 months to the length of your contract. • Dealers are not forthcoming about telling you their cancellation terms and additional fees. It’s your right to know the terms of your contract and know all the prices of buying a new contract – so make sure you ask. Additional Early Cancellation Fees at NYC Authorized Cell Phone Dealers Neighborhood Fee Range Most Common Fee Chinatown $200-400 $300 Upper East Side $0-300 $0, $300 Corona $0-300 $0, $300 Midtown/Hell’s Kitchen $70-300 $200 Jackson Heights $0-300 $200 Jamaica $0-300 $0 Washington Heights $0-300 $0 Downtown Brooklyn $0-200 $0 The Hub/South Bronx $0 $0 East New York $0 $0 11 Commercial Real Estate: Manhattan: Small Stores Lead the Demand in Retailing. New York Times 11/19/03; Retail Stores Ring up More Vacancies. Crain’s New York Business 05/12/2003. - 11 -
  15. 15. Looking for the World’s Most Sophisticated Phones? • Head to Chinatown: you can get phones that have not yet been released in corporate stores or may never be released in the United States. Tips for Non-English Speakers: • In ethnic neighborhoods, you can find sales people who speak your language and phones programmed in non-standard languages. Tips to Remember When Shopping: • Compare prices at several stores: our researchers Wireless Provider Stores vs. Websites: were quoted a broad range Providers’ websites frequently offer exclusive of prices for the same instant online rebates. Closely inspect plan phone by authorized cell terms: some providers consider voicemail and phone dealers across the Caller ID to be extras, but sometimes they are street from each other. Pick available for free online. at least 3 stores in which to In-Store Advantage: Some carrier websites compare phone prices. make it difficult to figure out how to sign up • Your credit rating will for a 1-year contract. If you want a 1-year determine phone prices, as contract, you’ll probably find it’s easier to get well as eligibility for exactly what you want at a store. discounts and rebates. If your credit rating is low, you may want to consider a prepaid phone. For a contract, stores may charge you extra for a collateral deposit. Sprint’s deposits tend to be lower than competing carriers. • Make sure to ask about manufacturer warranties. Although you can buy equipment replacement insurance for a few dollars Great Places to Buy Online each month, it is possible that Amazon: Extensive user reviews about some authorized retailers in phones, carriers, accessories, Very low NYC sell refurbished phones. prices, big instant rebates (sometimes up to Take extra precaution and $50 more than other online retailers) that make sure you are getting a give you money back when you purchase new phone. phones. Note that rebates require you to be active on your account for 6 months. Wireless service provider stores CNet: Professional and consumer reviews. The site lets you easily compare phone prices (Cingular, T-Mobile, Verizon, Nextel, Sprint PCS) among competing retailers. Follow the For: New Contract Sign-Up; Existing “where to buy” link to see product Subscribers Extending or Changing availability and price (with contract). Services LetsTalk.com: Comprehensive site with Pros: Consumers can try out phones on Cingular, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Nextel. display with or without the aid of a Low prices are a combination of online and salesperson; There are many sales carrier mail-in rebates. associates around to answer questions - 12 -
  16. 16. who are knowledgeable about the details of the providers’ plans; Lowest possible penalty price for canceling contract ($150-240 depending on the carrier). Cons: It can be difficult to buy a 1-year contract. Wireless service provider websites For: New Contract Sign-Up; Existing Subscribers Extending Services Pros: Some phones are more discounted online than in company stores; some phones are offered online that are not available in stores at all; Some contracts are discounted online and that are otherwise not available at a discount anywhere else including company stores or over the phone. Cons: No sales associate to walk you through your purchase or the fine print; can be hard to find a 1-year contract. Authorized Online Retailers (such as amazon.com, buy.com, letstalk.com) For: New Contract Sign-Up Pros: Big Discounts on expensive phones; easier to get a 1 year contract; among the first to carry the newest phones when they come out; you can buy and compare offerings from multiple carriers; online reviews and recommendations from users of phones and contracts from New York and around the country. Cons: Low advertised phone prices take rebates into account so initial purchase price may be high; No sales associate to walk you through your purchase or the fine print. Electronics Retailers (such as Circuit City, RadioShack) For: New Contract Sign-Up Pros: Ability to shop at big retailers that you trust; locations are common and convenient Cons: As in big stores that sell many other unrelated items, sales associates may not be as familiar with all the details of the plans as sales associates in wireless service provider stores. Wireless provider by phone For: Existing Subscribers Extending Services Pros: Redeem offers directly from your carrier to renew your contract; you may be able to negotiate for promotions or a lower rate. Cons: Hard to compare with options available from other carriers. - 13 -
  17. 17. Getting Rid of Your Old Phone Most people don’t know what to do with their old cell phone when they get a new one. Disposing of your phone correctly is very important and very easy. Cell phones and their batteries contain persistent toxins (including antimony, arsenic, beryllium, cadmium, copper, lead, nickel, and zinc) that can be harmful when released in small amounts, which makes it important to keep them out of incinerators and landfills.12 You can donate your phone to one of the local nonprofits listed in Appendix B, send it to a national recycling nonprofit (listed below) who will donate the proceeds to major charities, or drop it by any Staples store in New York City. The following is a sampling of websites that provide information on how to donate your old cell phone to national or local non-profits: • RecyclingDonation.com. Benefits: United Way, the American Heart Association, and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. • CharitableRecycling.com. Phones are donated to abused adults and children in shelters so they may have access to 911. Shipping is free. • RecycleWirelessPhones.com. Every major wireless carrier is a sponsor of Wireless: The New Recyclable, a program to let you recycle your phone in their corporate phone stores. If your phone cannot be refurbished (for resale), its base materials will be recycled. • RecycleCellPhones.com will show your charitable organization how to raise money by setting up cell phone recycling in your community. To search for cell phone disposal/donation locations by zip code, visit the Cell Phone and Computer Recycling page on Earth 911’s New York website (NewYork.earth911.org). Filing Complaints 311 and the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs monitor dead spots in New York City cell coverage. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is responsible for ensuring that wireless service providers abide by industry regulations. All major wireless providers discussed in this report are signatories of the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association (CTIA) Consumer Code for Wireless Service. Among its guarantees are a 14-day trial period, disclosure of rates and terms of service at point of sale, accuracy in advertising, giving consumers the right to terminate service if the carrier changes existing terms of service, and promptly responding to complaints from government agencies.13 If you have a complaint about coverage in the five boroughs or about a specific wireless provider call the Public Advocate’s Office at (212) 669-7250 or the City of New York at 311. 12 Waste in the Wireless World: Toxicity of Cell Phone Waste. INFORM, Inc. 11/2003. 13 CTIA: Consumer Code for Wireless Service, and Press Release 303-03, 10/27/03: Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, DoITT Commissioner Gino Menchini, and Consumer Affairs Commissioner Gretchen Dykstra Announce Program to Track Cell Phone “Dead Spots” Citywide. - 14 -
  18. 18. Other Resources and National Guides to Cell phones New York City and State Resources “Dead spots” in New York City reception collected from 311 (October 2004) http://www.nyc.gov/html/doitt/html/consumer/consumer_cell.shtml The Need for Wireless Telephone Consumer Protections: New York (June 2004) http://research.aarp.org/consume/ny_wireless.html National Guides CNet Cell Phone Reviews—includes professional and user reviews http://reviews.cnet.com/ Consumer Reports: February issue (annually) http://www.consumerreports.org/ Washington Post’s Annual Guide to Wireless Phone Service (October 2004) http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/technology/interactives/cellguide04/front.htm Industry and Government Regulation CTIA Consumer Code for Wireless Service http://www.ctia.org/wireless_consumers/consumer_code/ Filing a Complaint with the FCC http://www.fcc.gov/cgb/complaints.html Political Issues and Consumer Trends in the Wireless Industry MyWireless: America’s Wireless Voice http://www.mywireless.org/ Public Advocate for the City of New York Disclaimer: The Office of the Public Advocate for the City of New York makes every effort to print accurate and reliable information. It does not guarantee or warrant that the information is complete, accurate, or up-to- date. The Office of the Public Advocate for the City of New York assumes no responsibility for the use or application of any printed material and assumes no responsibility for any error or omission. If you should find errors or omissions, please inform this office at 1 Centre St, 15th floor, New York, NY 10007. - 15 -
  19. 19. Appendix A: Early Cancellation Penalties at NYC Authorized Cell Phone Dealers Carrier Additional Early Store Early Net Early Termination Termination Neighbor- Rec’d Termination Store Address Penalty Penalty Penalty hood Carrier Horizon South T 2855 3Av 240 0 240 Wireless Bronx Mobile Cellular- South 148th & 3Av Cingular 240 0 240 Nextel, etc. Bronx Span Am South 398 E 148 Cingular 240 0 240 Wireless Bronx O. R. South T 2883 3Av 200 0 200 Communicat Bronx Mobile ions Most South 2839 3Av Cingular 240 0 240 Wanted Bronx Wireless Wen Zhou T 44 Bowery Chinatown 200 400 600 Eastern Mobile Wireless 109 Hydra Chinatown Cingular 240 350 590 Lafayette Wireless T 9 Division St Chinatown 200 300 500 Mall Mobile T Rong Ding 170 Canal St Chinatown 200 300 500 Mobile Okashi Land 163 Hester T Chinatown 200 300 500 Techno Cell St Mobile T Ha Xong 145 Canal St Chinatown 200 200 400 Mobile - 16 -
  20. 20. Appendix A: Early Cancellation Penalties at NYC Authorized Cell Phone Dealers Carrier Additional Early Store Early Net Early Termination Termination Neighbor- Rec’d Termination Store Address Penalty Penalty Penalty hood Carrier T La Bamba Junction Blvd Corona 200 300 500 Mobile 96-09 T Bahia Corona 200 300 500 Roosevelt Av Mobile Orange 93-09 T Corona 200 300 500 Wireless Roosevelt Av Mobile 0 (if you 3779 T Phone Spot Corona 200 200 return the Junction Blvd Mobile phone) 89-02 Wireless 7 Corona Cingular 240 0 240 Roosevelt Av ComCell 84-18 Corona Sprint 150 0 150 Mobile Roosevelt Av 398 Fulton Downtown T Mercury 200 200 400 Mall Brooklyn Mobile Cellular 547 Fulton Downtown T 200 100 300 Tropics Mall Brooklyn Mobile Fulton 472 Fulton Downtown Sprint 150 0 150 Wireless Mall Brooklyn 400 Fulton Downtown T Stop Cell 200 0 200 Mall Brooklyn Mobile 435 Fulton Downtown T Beep 2000 200 0 200 Mall Brooklyn Mobile - 17 -
  21. 21. Appendix A: Early Cancellation Penalties at NYC Authorized Cell Phone Dealers Carrier Additional Early Store Early Net Early Termination Termination Neighbor- Rec’d Termination Store Address Penalty Penalty Penalty hood Carrier Cellular Downtown T 395 Jay St 200 0 200 Blast Brooklyn Mobile Intellifact 2667 Pitkin East New Cingular 240 0 240 Services Av York Latino 1082 Liberty East New T 200 0 200 Records Av York Mobile Krishna 1104 Liberty East New T 200 0 200 Bazaar Av York Mobile Express East New T 495 Grant Av 200 0 200 Wireless York Mobile PCS BHS 1150 Liberty East New T 200 0 200 Communicat Av York Mobile ions Fulton 3333 Fulton East New T 200 0 200 Family Corp St York Mobile Sky 74-13A Jackson Cingular 200 300 500 Wireless of Roosevelt Av Heights NY Y&L 75-06 Jackson Cingular 240 $200 440 Variety Roosevelt Av Heights $200 ($0 if PC Wireless 76-09 Jackson T 200 200 you return Inc Roosevelt Av Heights Mobile the phone) Roosevelt Av Jackson Z-Wireless Cingular 200 0 200 bet 80-81 Sts Heights - 18 -
  22. 22. Appendix A: Early Cancellation Penalties at NYC Authorized Cell Phone Dealers Carrier Additional Early Store Early Net Early Termination Termination Neighbor- Rec’d Termination Store Address Penalty Penalty Penalty hood Carrier Sun Gift 76-10 Jackson T 200 0 200 Wireless Roosevelt Av Heights Mobile Cellular 89-04 T Jamaica 200 300 500 Services Sutphin Blvd Mobile Reliable 90-52 Jamaica Cingular 240 150 390 Wireless Sutphin Blvd 166-37 T Big Value Jamaica 200 100 300 Jamaica Av Mobile NY Tele 148-03A T Jamaica 200 75 275 World Hillside Av Mobile Connection No Name Sutphin bet. T Jamaica 200 0 200 (has Vigo 88Av + Mobile sign) Hillside 168-47 T Skylight Jamaica 200 0 200 Hillside Av Mobile J&D Midtown- 850 9Av Cingular 200 300 500 Telecom, West Inc. 8th Ave. Gift Midtown- 618 8Av Cingular 200 200 400 Store West City Sound Midtown- 575 8Av Cingular 200 200 400 Electronic West Inc Ustronics Midtown- 580 8 Av Cingular 200 200 400 Com Inc West - 19 -
  23. 23. Appendix A: Early Cancellation Penalties at NYC Authorized Cell Phone Dealers Carrier Additional Early Store Early Net Early Termination Termination Neighbor- Rec’d Termination Store Address Penalty Penalty Penalty hood Carrier 9th Ave Midtown- 709 9Av Cingular 200 70-100 200 Cellular West All Ages 1Av bet 70- T Upper East 200 300 500 Wireless 71 Sts Mobile R.V. T 1292 1Av Upper East 200 0 200 Wireless Mobile Wireless T 1392 2Av Upper East 200 250 450 Center Mobile Wireless T 1433 1Av Upper East 200 300 500 Time Mobile Home 1400 2Av Upper East Cingular 240 0 240 Attractions 4229 Washing- T No Name 200 300 500 Broadway ton Heights Mobile Broadway 4179 Washing- T 175 250 425 Plaza Broadway ton Heights Mobile Express Unitech 4153 Washing- T 200 50 250 Wireless Broadway ton Heights Mobile Uno Washing- T 716 W 181St 200 0 200 Communicat ton Heights Mobile ions Uno Washing- T 709 W 181St 200 0 200 Communicat ton Heights Mobile ions - 20 -
  24. 24. Appendix B: Phone Recycling Locations for Charitable Donation in New York City Manhattan Brooklyn Avon Foundation (Women’s Empowerment) Recycle A Bicycle Contact: Pamela Harrington (Youth Job Training Program) 1345 Avenue of the Americas Contact: Karen Overton New York, NY 10105 55 Washington Street (212) 282-5663 Brooklyn, NY 11201 (718) 858-2972 www.recycleabicycle.org Strycker’s Bay Neighborhood Council (Affordable Housing) Contact: Herb Rosenbloom Consumer Information & Dispute 66 West 94th Street Resolution, Inc. New York, NY 10025 (Disabled & those living with Catastrophic Illnesses) Contact: Steven Lean US Fund for UNICEF (UN Children’s Fund) 32 Court Street, #1401 Contact: Kelley Perry Brooklyn, NY 11201 333 East 38th Street (718) 222-2437 New York, NY 10016 (203) 790-9218 Bronx Lower East Side Ecology Center Soft-Word, Inc. c/o Kinko's (Family Empowerment) 250 East Houston Street 941 East 219th Street New York, NY 10002 Bronx, NY 10469 (718) 325-7936 INFORM, Inc. (Environmental Research) Contact: Eve Martinez 120 Wall Street New York, NY 10005 (212) 361-2400, ext. 229 - 21 -

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